Stem cell therapy: A nonsurgical solution to torn ligaments

Stock image courtesy of St. George Health and Wellness Magazine, St. George News

FEATURE — Seven months ago, Larry Smith tried to avoid walking if he could. With a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus, Smith had been suffering from knee pain for over 40 years, the result of an injury incurred after jumping from a truck bed to an unstable rock while serving in the National Guard in 1968.

In 2015, Smith described his pain level as a four or five on a scale of one to 10 while he was resting, and as an eight when he was mobile. The pain for Smith became even more excruciating as he developed arthritis and his left knee seemed permanently swollen to twice the size of his right knee.

Anytime I went out, I would be hobbling by the time I got home,” Smith said with a chuckle. He can laugh about it now; Smith is virtually pain-free after receiving stem cell therapy injections in both knees.

Decades ago, Smith underwent surgery to repair his knee. He had been receiving regular corticosteroid shots for pain relief, but even with the shots and surgery he still needed to soak his knee in warm water and Epsom salt for about an hour to get his pain to a manageable level each time he was remotely active.

“When I first heard about stem-cell therapy, I was reluctant to even consider it an option. I thought it was too good to be true,” he said.

After he heard stories from a friend and and an acquaintance with miraculous recoveries, Smith decided to try the injections.

“Dr. Obray found that I was a good candidate for the treatment, so I went forward with it,” Smith said. “I had high hopes, but I just didn’t realize how well the treatment would work.”

Stem cell therapy has the capability of repairing and regenerating damaged tissue to help relieve chronic pain. Stem cells have the potential to become other cells of their kind, and they also have potential to signal to cells around them a need to perform their functions properly and efficiently once again.

Though stem cell therapy is considered experimental, and the exact healing mechanism is unclear, Smith reports a significant reduction in pain and overall improvement in function.

Today, just over six months after his regenerative treatment, Smith said he enjoys life to its fullest; and he’s exuberant about his improvement. The pain in his left knee is at a 0.5, he said, the pain in his right is at a zero and his left knee is now very similar in the size to that of his right knee.

On a scale from one to 10, I’d have to rate the success of the injections at a 15. A 10 would not do it justice,” Smith said. “If I knew then what I know now, that I could live life again because of the treatment, I wouldn’t have waited.”

Southwest Spine and Pain providers are currently treating patients with stem cells obtained from a patient’s own bone marrow, as well as placental tissue/tissue allograft. Placental tissue/tissue allograft therapy is obtained following routine cesarean sections, or C-sections, and does not come from fetal or embryonic tissue. Southwest Spine and Pain providers are also involved in a national FDA-approved study that utilizes stem cell therapy for the treatment of low back/disc pain.

Because stem cell treatments are currently considered experimental, at this time they are not generally covered by insurance. Still, Smith said he feels the procedure was well worth it.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” he said. “I feel like a kid again.”


  • Southwest Spine and Pain in St. George: 652 S. Medical Center Drive, Suite 110 | Telephone 435-656-2424 | Hours: Monday–Thursday 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m.–noon | website
  • Other locations
    • Hurricane: 25 N. 2000 West, Suite 8 | Telephone 435-635-0174 | Hours: Monday-Thursday 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. | Read more
    • Cedar City: 1303 N. Main St. | Telephone 435-586-2229 | Hours: Monday–Thursday 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m.–noon
    • Richfield: 70 E. 1000 North, Suite 2C | Telephone 435-586-2229 | Hours: Monday, Wednesday and Friday 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
    • Logan: 550 E. 1400 North, Suites X & Y | Telephone 435-787-8146 | Hours: Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
    • West St. George – Sunset Clinic: 2107 W. Sunset Blvd., Suite 102 | Telephone 435-619-8630 | Hours: Monday-Wednesday 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
    • Mt. Pleasant: | 1100 S. Medical Drive | Telephone  435-986-7156 | Hours: Thursday 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

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